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Archive for March, 2011

A Glimpse of Sydney

Sydney, Australia

This is a photo of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the Opera House, taken from the Botanical gardens. Hubby and I spent a day in Sydney at the end of our cruise in December last year. It’s an interesting city to walk around, and we had a beautiful sunny day for our sightseeing.

Thirteen Ways to Look Instantly Slimmer

Thursday Thirteen

I attended a craft show last week and sat in on several lectures. One of them was on fashion and styling, which didn’t really fit with crafts, but it was still interesting. Kate Elizabeth, the fashion stylist talked about ways to look slimmer and I thought I’d pass them on.

1. Wear non-shiny fabrics. Matt fabrics work best since they don’t scream “look at me!”

2. Wear clothing items with as many vertical elements as possible. They lengthen the body.

3. Wear dark colors over areas you want to disguise e.g. black trousers to cover a large butt.

4. Make sure your underwear fits perfectly since this is the foundation for your garments. Make sure the said underwear keeps everything in its place.

5. Large is not necessary best. Stick to medium size accessories and patterns.

6. Wear one color on the top and bottom e.g. black T-shirt with black trousers or jeans

7. Wear fabrics that drape rather cling.

8. Wear fine or medium weave fabrics rather than chunky ones.

9. Wear shoes with a medium to high heel to add height.

10. Wear prints that don’t have an obvious pattern i.e. abstract patterns

11. Wear garments with elbow length sleeves.

12. Wear clothes with some shape to them rather than going for a boxy look.

13. Wear eye-catching accessories to direct the eye away from problem areas.

What do you think? Do these solutions work for you?

Bella Graduates From Puppy School

Last night was Bella’s final class at puppy school. The seven weeks have passed really quickly and have been good for all of us. On the run up to the final class we worked hard with training, practicing several times each day. Our training paid off big time last night when the instructor ran a competition. It was a bit like muscial chairs. The puppies walked in a circle and the instructor shouted out commands for them to sit or drop. The last puppy to complete the command each time was eliminated. Bella sat and dropped like a champ and beat out the last puppy to win bragging rights. She was a real little star and both hubby and I were very proud.

Bella received a certificate stating she’d completed basic training.

Bella

At the end of the class we watched a demonstration of obedience and agility training with some older dogs. I’d love to do agility training with Bella but she’s not old enough yet. She needs to be 18 months old but she’s not quite six months yet. That’s something to consider in the future.

Meantime, hubby and I feel like proud parents…

Recipe: Zuppa Di Ceci (Chickpea Soup)

This is a new recipe I tried recently. It’s both quick and easy to make and the final result was delicious.

Chickpea Soup

2 cups of chickpeas (cooked)
4 tablespoons of Olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 zuchinni, diced
3 x cans Italian tomatoes, chopped
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and add onion, carrots, celery, rosemary, garlic and zuchinni. Fry gently without browning for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft.

Add the cooked chickpeas, tomatoes and tomato paste plus the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until soup is thick and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of soup. Serves 4 – 6 people

Note: I halved the quantities of most of the vegetables and used one can of chickpeas and one can of tomatoes. I also grated a little parmesan cheese on top.

Serve with Beer Bread

Source: Cuisine Magazine, New Zealand

Thirteen Disasters Waiting to Happen

Thursday Thirteen

Since the earthquake in Christchurch and the one in Japan, our larger cities have been under the spotlight. According to records, many buildings in Auckland (where I live) are not earthquake proof. For the last few years we’ve had a series of ads on TV and other media about being prepared with an emergency kit. Like most people I pretty much ignored the ads. Not now. Experts say we have earthquakes every day in New Zealand. Who knew? I didn’t. I’ve never experienced an earthquake, and I really don’t want to lose my virgin status in this respect.

In our local paper this week they listed disasters that could strike those of us who live in Auckland. They included the likelihood of a hazard occuring and the possible impact on the Auckland population.

Thirteen Auckland Disaster Risks

1. Power failure – very high risk/possible/catastrophic (a problem with power crippled the central business district a few years ago)

2. Human epidemic – very high risk/possible/catastrophic (we’re big travellers with lots of planes coming and going each day)

3. Distant volcanic eruption – very high risk/likely/major

4. Cyclone – very high risk/likely/major

5. Flooding – very high risk/almost certain/moderate (flooding seems to be a problem in many areas during high rainfall)

6. Erosion: Coastal Cliff – very high risk/almost certain/moderate (there are lots of expensive homes perched on cliffs)

7. Auckland volcanic eruption – high risk/rare/catastrophic (I knew this was a possibility since Auckland is built on a field of volcanoes)

8. Animal epidemic – high risk/possible/major

9. Aircraft crash – high risk/possible/major

10. Earthquake – high risk/unlikely/major

11. Hazardous spill – high risk/likely/moderate

12. Erosion: Landslide – very high risk/almost certain/moderate (we’re quite a hilly city, but I wouldn’t have thought of this one)

13. Dam failure/Rural fire – low risk

Source – Manukau Courier, 15 Mar, 2011
Are you prepared? – a link to a website about being prepared for an emergency.

What disasters could strike where you live? Are you prepared with an emergency kit?

The Week That Was

The months are passing so quickly. We’ll be off on holiday again very soon. This time we’re going on a cruise of another part of the Pacific. We’re visiting Norfolk Island, Vanuatu and Noumea. I’m looking forward to the short ten-day break.

Mr. Munro visited a school or play center recently for his work. They had a worm farm and Mr. Munro arrived home with everything he needed to create his own worm farm. We already recycled all our kitchen waste into the compost bin, but these days I have to separate out the onion and garlic skins and any citrus scraps. I keep forgetting and that means a telling off. I think I’ve got it straight now, although I haven’t worked up the courage to peer inside the farm to see if I can spot the worms.

The garden has also received a bit of a makeover with some lime chips and some solar lights. It’s made a big difference and the garden is looking very pretty. The lime chips should also stop the weeds coming through. Yesterday, Mr. Munro planted some spring bulbs (rununculars and freesias) because he knows how much I like them along with some garden greens and coriander. I get the job of watering.

Bella has been a little horror since I last posted about her training. I’ve been calling her a devil dog and she’s lived up to the name. She will insist on biting when she gets over excited. I know it’s a puppy thing but I wish she’d get over it. At other times she’s so cute I just want to squeeze her. Ah, the trials of owning a puppy!

Cute Bella

In writing, I’m currently working on a short hot historical and I’m also adding a few words to the follow up story to The Bottom Line. The follow up story belongs to Julia. It’s given me real fits. I don’t think I’ve ever started a story so many times before. The current version has me excited and I’m cautiously optimistic that Julia’s story is on its way.

How was your week?

Thirteen Ways to Limit Excessive Shopping & Spending

Thursday Thirteen

My sister works in a shopping center. Last weekend it rained and she said the mall was absolutely chocka with shoppers. Evidently when people are bored or at a loss for an activity, they shop! Who knew? That inspired my post for today.

Thirteen Ways to Limit Shopping & Spending

1. Make a list and shop only once a week.

2. Plan menus and only shop for things that relate to your menus.

3. Share information about family spending with your children and this will make them more aware of how much things cost. This should also focus them on needs versus wants.

4. Have regular no-car days. This not only saves money spent on fuel, but you’re less likely to go shopping if you have to walk or take public transport.

5. Buy second-hand where possible.

6. Make a note of what you’re spending. If you write things down you have a better awareness.

7. If you’re likely to go shopping during your lunch hours change your behavior. Go for a walk instead.

8. Sell stuff you don’t use such as clothes, toys, books etc

9. Instead of purchasing gifts, give time. Grandmother would probaly love a strong back to do her gardening or wash her car.

10. Pay by cash rather than a credit card and set a budget for the amount of cash you draw out of your bank each week.

11. Make your own or grow your own wherever possible.

12. Socialize at home rather than going out all the time.

13. Draw a line between needs and wants. Have a family meeting and get the children to do the same thing. Ask yourself – do I really need this?

Do you have any tips to add? How often do you shop?

Adventures with Puppy, Bella

We’re having lots of fun with Bella. She’s behaving better with me now. Most days I sit in my chair working away while she creeps into my husband’s chair and has a snooze. I think she’s decided the chair belongs to her since Mr. Munro has to forcefully evict her most nights.

We’ve attended four puppy school classes and are halfway through the course. She’s usually very well behaved in class and learns quickly. At the last class we talked about tricks. We hadn’t tried teaching Bella any tricks and decided we’d attempt something basic first — a high five. She caught on really quickly and I had her high-fiving like a champ. When Mr. Munro arrived home from work we proudly demonstrated.

Here’s the process if you’d like to teach your dog to high five.

1. Hold a small treat on your right palm with your thumb covering it.
2. Hold another treat in your left hand out of sight of your dog. (I hide my left hand behind my back)
3. Get your dog to sit.
4. Hold out your right hand and say “High Five”. Your dog will sniff at first then automatically start to paw at your hand.
5. As soon as your dog slaps your hand with their paw give them the treat in your left hand and praise them.
6. Repeat process several times.

Bella

Since Bella is very good at coming when we call her name, we’ve started letting her off the lead in safe areas. Mostly she’s very good at returning, although tonight we met another dog without warning. The dog was three times Bella’s size but that didn’t deter her in the slightest. She wanted to play!

Can your dog do any tricks?

Recipe: Ratatouille

With all the great summer produce around, I love making this vegetable stew. It’s great for vegetarians –serve it with rice or couscous — and meat lovers enjoy this dish too. This recipe takes a little time but the final result is very tasty.

Ratatouille

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant cut into chunky pieces
3 medium courgettes, thickly sliced (that’s zuchinni in the US)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 red capsicums
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 red onions, sliced
1/2 cup red wine
4 large ripe outdoor tomatoes, chopped (or 400g can chopped tomatoes)
1 tablespoon oregano
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup torn basil leaves

METHOD 1:Brush eggplant and courgettes with oil and grill or barbecue until tender. Cook capsicum on barbecue or grill until skin blisters and blackens. Allow to cool slightly and then rub off skin, remove seeds and cut into strips. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and gently cook garlic and onion until tender. Add the eggplant, peppers and zucchini to the pan along with the remaining olive oil, red wine, tomatoesm oregano and olives. Season with sea salt and cover and cook until vegetables are tender.
Sprinkle with torn basil leaves and freshly ground black pepper.

METHOD 2: The above is the actual recipe from the Foodlovers.co.nz site. I use a slightly different method. I chop the eggplant, courgettes, capsicum, and onion into bite sized pieces and place on an oven tray. I add cloves of garlic and toss all the vegetables in oil, black pepper and sea salt. I cook for about half an hour in a medium oven. Then I toss the lot in a pot with a can of tomatoes, red wine and oregano and cook for around ten minutes until the tomatoes have reduced and the vegetables are tender. Serve with rice or couscous and garnish with torn basil leaves.

I like the second method because it’s easier and everything is cooked together, but it’s a lot tastier than when I used to cook everything in a pot.

Thirteen Tips for Entertaining

Thursday Thirteen

Sometimes entertaining can be a little scary. Here are some tips for beginners…

Thirteen Tips for Entertaining i.e. Entertaining 101

1. Think ahead and set the table in the morning or afternoon of the dinner.

2. Make the table special with a simple seasonal centerpiece or something to complement the guests or food. Don’t make the centerpiece too tall. You don’t want your guests craning their necks all during the dinner.

3. Candlelight creates a great atmosphere. Keep the candles low so that conversation flows across the table.

4. Get in the mood with some chic and restful music.

5. Don’t try to be too ambitious and enlist help in the kitchen or design a prepare-ahead menu.

6. Forget nibbles. Plan on getting the guests to the table promptly after one or two drinks.

7. Keep it simple. Plan a meal that is simple to prepare and eat. Complex food is often time-consuming and heavy, leaving your poor guests groaning and overfull.

8. Focus on one course being the star rather than three spectacular courses.

9. Don’t experiment. Cook dishes you’re familiar with and have tried before.

10. Avoid repetition in colors, ingredients, textures and flavors. i.e. don’t serve tomato soup followed by roast beef garnished with red and a berry dessert.

11. Refrain from drinking yourself until dinner is under way. You don’t want to feature in your guests stories for years to come!

12. Seek advice if you’re not skilled with matching food and wine. Take your menu to a specialist wine store. Even your supermarket probably has a wine expert.

13. Cocktails get everyone in a happy frame of mind. They can be time consuming to make so purchase a bottle of the best bubbles you can afford.

Do you have any entertaining tips?